Tuesday, August 27, 2013

London Day 26: Loyalty, Luck, & Breaking "the rules"

Rakhi bracelet

So tonight on my tube ride home, I broke the rules of English-ness.  I pestered a very patient guy, Shyam about his bracelet.  According to anthropologist Kate Fox, one should not speak to co-commuters on the train for several years to maintain proper decorum.  Because I am American, I felt inclined to rebel against this standard because it is awkward and rude to be smashed up against folks and not at least apologize or say a greeting/farewell.  So, after gawking for a few moments at his special bracelet, I plucked up the courage to do the unthinkable- I asked him about it.  The significance is really quiet interesting.  Shyam said that there is an annual festival called Raksha Bandan where siblings exchange symbolic gifts.  Sisters tie the special thread bracelets on their brothers for protection against harm (luck).  Brothers give sisters gifts of provision like money (loyalty).  This festival is observed by Hindus.  It makes me a little jealous because I don't have a brother!  

Because I was clearly breaking the rules of tube commuting and social protocol, I felt bold enough to ask Shyam if I could photograph and blog about his bracelet.  He kindly agreed.  I wish the train ride could have been a bit longer so I could have asked more questions, but I bet all the observers were relieved when I exited the train and my torrent of conversation ceased.  I need more hindu friends!  So much to learn still.  Shyam's parting challenge to me was to start looking for men wearing similar thread bracelets.  Now many more people will find me invasively creepy as I stare at their wrists.  Excellent!  Because I wasn't terrible enough at blending in with the English.  :D

Thank you Shyam!  I appreciate your tolerance.  :)


  1. Anytime my new rebellious American friend! Keep on the lookout for those Rakhis in North Wembley!

  2. Sadly, I saw none today. I will keep looking, and probably terrifying the poor English tube commuters in the process. I wish I had known about this sooner, I could have kept a running tally. Only a few days left in England. :(